FRANKFORT — Kentucky's two U.S. senators sharply criticized a U.S. Supreme Court decision Thursday that upheld tax credits aimed at making insurance more affordable for millions under the federal health care law, but Gov. Steve Beshear praised the ruling as wise.
Sen. Rand Paul, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, said he would work to repeal the law if he is elected the nation's chief executive next year.
Paul, of Bowling Green, said in a statement that the Supreme Court decision "turns both the rule of law and common sense on its head."
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"Obamacare raises taxes, harms patients and doctors, and is the wrong fix for America's health care system," Paul said. "As president, I would make it my mission to repeal it, and propose real solutions for our health care system."
Paul, who also is an eye surgeon, said he knows as a physician that "Americans need a health care system that reconnects patients, families and doctors, rather than growing government bureaucracy."
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville, said on the Senate floor that the court's ruling "won't change Obamacare's multitude of broken promises, including the one that resulted in millions of Americans losing the coverage they had and wanted to keep."
"Today's ruling won't change Obamacare's spectacular flops, from humiliating website debacles to the total collapse of exchanges in states run by the law's loudest cheerleaders," McConnell said. "Today's ruling won't change the skyrocketing costs in premiums, deductibles and co-pays that have hit the middle class so hard over the last few years."
Beshear, who implemented a state-based health insurance exchange under the federal law and has heavily promoted its benefits, said he was pleased that the court "wisely ruled in favor of those 6.4 million people in the nation who could have lost their access to affordable health insurance."
He said the legality of subsidies offered through Kentucky's insurance exchange, Kynect, was never in question.
"To conclude that the law's intent was only to offer subsidies to those who purchased health care coverage through their state's health benefit exchange when many states declined to establish one would have penalized the very individuals the law was designed to help," Beshear said.
A spokesman for Jack Conway, the Democratic nominee in this year's race for governor and the state's attorney general, said Conway "appreciates the court's careful consideration of this case and agrees with today's decision."
"He is pleased that, as a result of today's ruling, millions of Americans across the country will not lose their health care," campaign spokesman Daniel Kemp said.
Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, the Republican nominee for governor, did not have an immediate comment on the court decision.
U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville, the only Democrat in Kentucky's Congressional delegation, said the decision "yet again affirmed a fact long known: the Affordable Care Act is lawful and will continue to help American families get the care they need at a cost they can afford."
"Repeated attempts to repeal or weaken this important law — legislatively or judicially — have failed," Yarmuth said. "The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, and today's decision is a victory for all who rightfully believe that access to affordable health care is a right, not a privilege."
U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, said he "strongly and respectfully" disagreed with the decision.
"Laws should be implemented as they are written, not as the president wishes they were written," Barr said in a statement. "The ruling may temporarily shield many Americans from the true cost of health care under Obamacare, but it does nothing to solve the problem of rising prices and government-rationed care."
Barr said Congress "will be forced to revisit this issue because we cannot indefinitely continue to subsidize a broken health care system laden with expensive and job-killing Obamacare mandates."
In Eastern Kentucky, where the rate of uninsured people has plummeted since Beshear used the federal law to expand eligibility for Medicaid, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, said he was disappointed by the court's decision and that "Obamacare has been a reoccurring train wreck from the beginning."
David Adams, a Tea Party activist who has filed several legal challenges to Kynect, described the court's ruling as "absurd."
"We are destroying America by pretending the rule of law is a goalpost on wheels," Adams said.
He added: "The real news going forward is the court can't repeal economic reality, which continues to hit Kentuckians hard with a deteriorating health care system under federal control and the Kentucky Health Cooperative about to go out of business."